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Blunt-Led Funding Bill Provides 6th Consecutive Increase for Life-Saving, Cost-Saving NIH Research

December 21, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), today announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has received $42.9 billion in the fiscal year 2021 Labor/HHS appropriations bill, a $1.25 billion increase over last year’s level. The bill is the product of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and is expected to be considered by Congress shortly.

“This year has reinforced the importance of a federal investment in the National Institutes of Health,” said Blunt. “As we have faced a global health pandemic, NIH and its framework of 476,000 researchers across the country have been a critical part of our response efforts. At the same time, these scientists have had to continue with their day jobs – working on research to prevent cancer, fight other infectious diseases, and identify ways to detect disease at its early stages.  NIH-funded research continues to benefit the lives of all Americans.”

Blunt previously secured five consecutive funding increases for NIH, bringing the six-year total increase to $12.85 billion, or 42.7%, under Blunt’s subcommittee chairmanship.

Blunt continued, “In my home state of Missouri, several institutions are working on COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests.  Missouri researchers continue to be at the forefront of our most important discoveries, from working to combat the COVID-19 global pandemic, to developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease, to discovering a potential new treatment for liver cancer.  As we have seen firsthand this year, fundamental research and having the infrastructure and scientists in place is a critical component to our health response.  That starts with sustained, predictable increases in NIH funding.  It is one of the most important investments the federal government can make.”

According to data from United for Medical Research, NIH funding supported nearly 476,000 jobs and more than $81 billion in economic activity nationwide in FY2019. In Missouri, NIH funding supported $1.6 billion in new economic activity and more than 9,000 jobs. Through December 1, 2020, Missouri institutions received $670.8 million in NIH funding for 1,351 grants. From 2015- 2020, NIH funding to Missouri institutions increased by $199.2 million or 42.2%. 

Following Are Several of the Key NIH Investments Included in the Labor/HHS Bill:

·      $3.1 Billion for Alzheimer’s Disease Research: The bill includes $3.1 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, a $300 million increase from last year’s level. Currently, Medicare and Medicaid spend $195 billion caring for those with Alzheimer’s, making it the most expensive disease in America. Since Blunt became subcommittee chair five years ago, Alzheimer’s disease research funding has nearly quadrupled, increasing from $631 million to $3.1 billion.

·      $6.56 Billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI): The bill includes $6.56 billion for NCI, an increase of $119.4 million above FY2020. Within NCI funding, the bill provides:

o   $50 million in continued funding for the President’s Childhood Cancer Data program to connect and integrate multiple childhood cancer data sources;

o   $30 million for the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act, which Blunt cosponsored. The STAR Act is a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that expands opportunities for childhood cancer research, improves efforts to identify and track incidence of childhood cancer, and enhances the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors;

o   $250 million, an increase of $37.5 million, to prioritize competing grants in cancer research and sustain commitments to continuing grants. Grant applications to the National Cancer Institute have increased by approximately 50% since 2013, with requests for cancer research ten-fold greater than other institutes.

·      $560 Million for the BRAIN Initiative: The measure increases funding for the BRAIN initiative by $60 million above FY2020.  The bill also restores the $40 million loss of Cures Act funding to the BRAIN Initiative in FY2021.  The BRAIN Initiative is developing a more complete understanding of brain function, which could help millions of people who suffer from a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.

·      $500 Million for the All of Us Precision Medicine Initiative: The measure includes $500 million to fund the All of Us precision medicine study, restoring the $40 million loss of Cures Act funding. This study will enroll one million Americans to take into account differences in biology, lifestyle, and environment to discover new paths towards delivering individualized precision medicine. In October, Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) received an enrollment grant as part of the Precision Medicine Initiative. 

·      $586.8 Million for the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA): The measure includes $586.8 million, an increase of $8.7 million, for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences’ CTSA program. WashU’s CTSA is part of the national program aimed at accelerating discoveries toward better health.

·      $2.1 Billion for Mental Health Research: The bill includes $2.1 billion, an increase of $60.7 million, for mental health research at the National Institute of Mental Health.

·      $220 Million for Research on the Universal Flu Vaccine: The bill provides an increase of $20 million in targeted funding to advance progress toward a universal flu vaccine. Under Blunt’s leadership, funding for a universal flu vaccine has more than quadrupled in the last four years. Saint Louis University is part of NIH’s Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units working on a universal flu vaccine.

·      $943.7 Million for Opioid & Pain-Related Research: The bill includes $943.7 million for research on opioid addiction, development of opioids alternatives, pain management, and addiction treatment. If patients with acute or chronic pain do not have reasonable access to non-addictive pain medications or alternative treatments, it will be difficult to get the opioid crisis under control. This includes $500 million in dedicated funding provided to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The bill also provides NIH flexibility to use the dedicated $500 million in opioid funding for stimulant research.

·      $425 Million for Infrastructure Improvements on NIH’s Campus: The bill provides a $225 million increase to support NIH’s Bethesda Campus, including a 200-bed research hospital, numerous laboratories, outpatient clinics, and administrative and facilities space. The funding increase follows a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report stating there is a $1.3 billion backlog in facilities maintenance on the campus. More than 72% of the facilities in Bethesda are over 20 years old and the average “condition index” is in the poor range.

·      $10 Million for Premature Birth Research: The bill includes new, dedicated funding for research aimed at enhancing the survival and health development of preterm infants.  These studies may include research efforts to identify and understand the causes of preterm birth, and the development of evidence-based strategies to address the short- and long-term complications in children born preterm, including children with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities.

·      $10 Million for Gene Vector Research: The bill recognizes the importance and promise of gene therapy in developing new treatments for a number of diseases and conditions and provides $10 million in new, dedicated funding to expand ongoing gene vector initiatives.  The creation of a Consortium for Innovation in Large-Scale Gene Vector Production can address specific translational roadblocks to vector production to increase the efficiency of vector production, therapeutic effects, and clinical trial design, with the goal of maximizing the number of patients who benefit from gene therapy. 

·      $10 Million for Lyme and Related Tick-borne Diseases Research: The bill includes, for the first time, dedicated funding for Lyme disease and related tick-borne disease research.  This funding will bring the total funding in FY2021 to $81 million.

·      $5 Million to Combat Foreign Threats to Research: The bill includes $5 million for NIH to continue its work with HHS’ Office of the Inspector General to combat foreign threats to the research infrastructure. Blunt discussed this issue at a Labor/HHS subcommittee hearing in April 2019, particularly China’s Thousand Talents program aimed at recruiting NIH-funded researchers to steal intellectual property, cheat the peer-review system, establish shadow laboratories in China, and help the Chinese government obtain confidential information about NIH research grants.

·      $12.6 Million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act: The Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, which was signed into law in 2014, created a dedicated fund for pediatric medical research. The bill provides the resources authorized under the law, and prioritizes funding for pediatric cancer research.

In addition, the bill provides increases to every NIH Institute and Center to continue investments in innovative research that will advance fundamental knowledge and speed the development of new therapies, diagnostics, and preventive measures to improve the health of all Americans.

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